Friday, December 19, 2008

Synchromysticism's Godfather

Adam Gorightly's newest book documents the remarkable phantasmagoria that was the person named James Shelby Downard, an American theorist and pamphleteer who shared his thoughts about conspiracies, coincidences, synchronicity, and symbolism.

James Shelby Downard's Mystical War was released by Virtual Bookworm Publishing, in November 2008. The subject of the book, Downard, lived from March 13, 1913 to March 16, 1998, unless, of course, his death was a disappearing act and he's still alive somewhere, writing under an assumed name. (I'm joking, right?)

Downard appeared on the scene when many of my contemporaries and I were just beginning to have lexilinked thoughts and overlapping insights into coincidences. His influence, as Gorightly notes, today has spread far beyond this strange man's life and death.

I easily understand the reach of Downard's impact within my own life from this twilight realm. In the 1960s and 1970s, first in correspondence, and then later in Fortean Times columns, I wrote about the connections I found between names and weirdnesses. Some of those writings appeared (see Devil Names and Fortean Places) in my 1983 book, Mysterious America, along with another chapter, entitled "Name Game."

In the beginning, I pointed to names such as Devil, Diablo, Manitou, and Hockomock for locations, and people names like Hobbs and Wetzel to watch. These were early explorations on the edges of what today is a vast journey in onomatology (the study of names) and toponomy (the study of places).

In the 1960s, John A. Keel carried on a lively correspondence with me and others, in which he examined the frequent appearance of certain proper names, like Reeves/Reaves, McDaniel, Hill, Allen, Maddox, and Heflin, as eyewitnesses of anomalistic incidents.

Soon, I was corresponding with Bill Grimstad and Michael Anthony Hoffman II (both known for their alleged Holocaust denier views, btw), who were close associates of Downard. Many people feel they got letters from Downard, but mostly, it was Hoffman and Grimstad who were assisting in getting Downard's thoughts and words to the rest of us.

Exchanging ideas with Grimstad, about locations linked to Fayette and LaGrange, and names like Bell, Mason/Macon, Pike, Warren, and Lafayette, all went hand in hand with being a Fortean in the 1960s-1970s, especially if an interest in assassinations and strange suicides fit into the mindset.

Hoffman, who authored the modern notion of the twilight language (versus the ancient Buddhist understanding of the phrase) and Grimstad, who was the source of the Fayette factor, were interesting and stimulating correspondents who nicely intellectualized many of Downard's ideas. Hidden meanings were there for the finding, and Hoffman, Grimstad, and Downard were the miners.

James Shelby Downard, who wrote short tracts, which later were published in various anthologies from Adam Parfray at Feral House, examined his own perceived decodings behind historical events in the 20th century, on a parallel track to what was happening with Forteans, anomalists, and demonologists. Downard's approach was mostly cryptopolitical, and some of us drifted over into his world, as often happens in attempting to get a holistic view of history and current events.

How does a biographer working with a secretive subject capture the life of the hidden one? That was Gorightly's task.

As you begin to read this new book about Downard, you might think that you have opened a cryptocomedic LSD trip about a conspiracy-oriented Forrest Gump-like character, who amazingly finds himself in all the wrong places at the wrong times.

Gorightly escorts the reader abroad a rollercoaster ride in which Downard is a Freemason scapegoat being ritualistically abused, watching the KKK hang a person at a crossroads, seeing Alexander Graham Bell receiving homoerotic sex magik fellatio, visiting J. Edgar Hoover's office, and getting a phone call from FDR.

The opening sections of the book are so breathlessly delivered that by the time I arrived at the chapter noting that Downard was at the "first ever meeting of the Baker Street Irregulars on July 5, 1934" in a New York City eating establishment, I hardly was startled by the statement.

All of this made me flashback to what Gorightly observed in his second paragraph of the book: "Some cynics have gone so far to suggest that Downard never actually existed, the group creation of Michael Hoffman, William Grimstad and Adam Parfrey."


The publisher's tagline for James Shelby Downard’s Mystical War, tells us that author Adam Gorightly "chronicles the famed conspiracy researcher’s life long battles against Masonic Sorcery as an investigator and exposer of the Science of Symbolism, Onomatology and Mystical Toponomy."

Well, yes, but what is real and what are Downard's fantasies? We clearly can't tell from Gorightly's text, because, of course, who knows?

The book is an odd mix, at points, of biographical tales about Downard's unbelievable life, his intellectual perceptions in symbol decoding, and details of specific historical milestones along the twilight highway.

When you realize that James Shelby Downard's first published work was only released in 1979, via the short work, The Masonic Assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, you do come to grips with the fact his overall output was limited, but powerful.

Downard's refined and well-edited King-Kill 33° had everything to do with the skills of Michael Hoffman channeling Downard. Combined with Grimstad's Sirius Rising reel-to-reel tapes of conversations with Downard, the two works had a ripple effect. “King-Kill/33: Masonic Symbolism in the Assassination of John F. Kennedy” eventually was published by Adam Parfrey in the first edition of the book Apocalypse Culture. The essay theorizes the Freemasons were responsible for the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Grimstad, writing even before it was published, was able to walk a wonderfully skeptical open-minded fence, as he passed along the following summary of Downard's JFK insights in Weird America in 1978:

Would you believe John F. Kennedy as a ceremonial king-who-must-die? I'm afraid there is a certain body of opinion, undoubtedly the farthest-out brain wave of assassinology yet, that maintains the killing was pulled off, not by the Russians, the Cubans, the CIA, or the Mafia, but by alchemists.

As I understand the hypothesis, President Kennedy was for some reason chosen as The King (remember "Camelot," "Macbird" and all that?) after the fashion of James G. Frazer and Mary Renault whose "The King Must Die" he had been given to read before his death. This killing of the king in Dallas was related somehow to the touching off of the world's first atomic bomb at the Trinity Site in New Mexico 18 years earlier. Apparently the Bomb was the "destruction of primordial matter" stage of the grand alchemical working, but these conspiracy buffs aren't much more specific on details than were the early alchemists in their recipes. Anyway, Kennedy represented the next stage of the process - the "Death of the White King" - when he was immolated on a trinity site of his own. For, aren't Dealey Plaza and the ill-famed Triple Underpass on the bank of the old Trinity River?

William Grimstad

Popular cultural outlets, such as Robert Anton Wilson's works (e.g. Cosmic Trigger), the music of Marilyn Manson, and the various books and movies about the numbers 23 and 33, have Downard living onward into the morrow. My own books, including The Copycat Effect, show Downard influences.

Everyone has the sense they "discovered" the significance of certain names or dates, or even factoids like Dealey Plaza being the first Masonic temple in Texas, but remarkably, most of these revelations track back to Downard.

Adam Gorightly, who authored the underground classic, The Prankster and the Conspiracy: The Story of Kerry Thornley and How He Met Oswald and Inspired the Counterculture (with its foreword by Robert Anton Wilson), is a good person to be at the wheel for this biography of Downard. Oh, I wish it would have been twice as long, but I understand how difficult it is to write biographies of people that do not wish to be known.

Gorightly's book does an excellent job, nevertheless, in opening the door to a comprehensive world of symbol decodifications that may be new to many people. Today, there is much 21st century intrigue involving Downard's legacy, in new areas such as synchromysticism.

Several writers and commentators, including Todd Campbell, Robert Schneck, Theo Paijmans, SMiles, Michael Janitch, Mike Gos, Goro Adachi, Greg Bishop, Ben Fairhall, Henrik Palmgren, Richard Hendricks, Craig Heimbichner, Christopher Knowles, Fredrik Palmgren, Anthony Sutton, Kenn Thomas, the late Jim Keith, the late Ron Bond, and Jake Kotze inhabit the netherworld of conspiracies and synchromysticism, with the later being "an emerging field of study and subculture existing on the fringe of areas already considered fringe – primarily mysticism and Jungian psychology."

The word "synchromysticism" was first coined by Jake Kotze in August 2006, on his website-at-the-time, Brave New World Order. Kotze defined the concept as: "The art of realizing meaningful coincidence in the seemingly mundane with mystical or esoteric significance."

Downard's modern influence on Forteana, assassination studies, occult symbolism decoding, twilight language research and synchromysticism is so deep that he must be acknowledged as the Godfather to many of the points of view that inhabit those arenas.

I'm not sure if I take even half of what Downard wrote about as reality, but to get caught up in that intellectual side trick in critical thinking misses the point. In realizing the reality behind the twilight language, the metaphor is the method and the Downard as revealed by Gorightly is the message.

Greg Bishop, Farah Yurdozu, Nick Redfern, and Adam Gorightly somewhere near Roswell, on 07/09/07. Photo by Sigrid Hudson.

Glossary ~ James Shelby Downard examined the world through a variety of methodologies, including the following:

Onomastics or onomatology is the study of proper names of all kinds and the origins of names. The word is Greek: ὀνοματολογία (from ὄνομα (ónoma) "name").

Toponymy or toponomastics, the study of place names, is one of the principal branches of onomastics.

Anthroponomastics (or Anthroponymy), a branch of onomastics, is the study of anthroponyms (anthropos, 'man', + onuma, 'name'), the names of human beings.

Etymology is the study of the history of words — when they entered a language, from what source, and how their form and meaning have changed over time. In languages with a long detailed history, etymology makes use of philology, the study of how words change from culture to culture over time. The word "etymology" itself comes from the Ancient Athens ἐτυμολογία (etumologia) < ἔτυμον (etumon), “‘true sense’” + -λογία (-logia), “‘study of’”, from λόγος (logos), "speech, oration, discourse, word."


If you have questions about the identity of Bill Grimstad: 

 See The Dirty Little Secrets of Twilight Forteans.


Greg Bishop said...


Your review is a book in itself! in lieu of more erudite comments at this time, here is a photo from a few years ago with some more bastard children of Downard.

In the picture are Me, Rob Sterling, Jim Martin, Acharya S, Kenn Thomas.

Greg B.

Ben Fairhall said...

This is a real treat, Loren, thank you. Great to hear about the development of twilight/Fortean studies from the inside. James Shelby Downard is, I agree, one of the most significant unsung characters of recent years, and I'm very glad that- through 'synchro-mysticism', which, I must add, seems to have at least two quite distinct 'schools'- his message is reaching a new generation.

All the best,

Anonymous said...

A 'Ringolevio' for the anomalous. Thanks for the heads-up.

FilmNoir23 said...

Wow, what a treat you have provided to everyone in the "research" community here.

I agree with both Greg and Ben!

Adam's book, Downard's own groundbreaking work, and your ability to tie it all together as well as expanding into the new breed of investigation is tight.

Thanks for the inclusion as well...I am flattered.

Craig Heimbichner said...


An outstanding review which is worth referencing itself. Thanks for the inclusion also.



Anonymous said...

I like to think I'm a free thinker . I believe I am somewhat immune from the sort of msn conditioning that most people seem to have internalized. I've always though that ther is a "hidden hand" and that much of what we are told is "loaded"

I also find this "twilight language " sort of thing difficult to comprehend . I do believe there is much validity in it.

It would be interesting for there to be an explanation of how all this "media mind control" works.

Lance M. Foster said...

The location is the Albuquerque Airport. I used to go there all the time when I lived in Santa Fe, 1997-2001.

Anonymous said...

You couldn't be more precise!!!

Anonymous said...

Check out the essay I have in Adam G's new book about the twilight language connections between JFK, Tuesday Weld and the old Route 66 TV show.